Countdown: 16 days to spring training

Today is the fifth day of our countdown to Feb. 12, the day pitchers and catchers report to Yankees spring training camp in Tampa. Each day between now and then, Wallace Matthews, Mark Simon and I will present a list dealing with a specific issue facing the Yankees this season. Today, we examine the loss of Russell Martin.


1.) MODERN-DAY THURMAN MUNSON: That's not my opinion, that's the GM's. The Yankees felt that Martin was "Munson-like." They thought he was that tough behind the plate.

2.) GAME PLANNING: Joe Girardi likes a defense-first catcher. He prefers guys who understand the game plan and stick to it. From all signs, Martin was a guy Girardi warmed to because of these reasons. This is inside-baseball stuff, but to the manager it means a lot. Girardi believes it translates to better pitching.

3.) NOT ONLY HOMERS, CLUTCH HOMERS: Martin hit some big homers. In Game 1 of the ALDS against the Orioles in October, he nailed a solo shot that gave the Yankees the lead in the ninth. He hit 21 homers in the regular season and it is in question if Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart can even combine for half that many. Martin's .211 average will be something that can be matched, but there is no doubt he was still a bigger threat at the plate than Stewvelli will be. In September/October of '12, Martin had an .OPS of .886 and was one of the team's best hitters.

4.) GOOD MEDIA GUY: "Who cares?" you ask. Well, this isn't the biggest deal in the world, but there is a reason that New York, Boston and Philly are different than other cities. It is not the aggressiveness of the media -- though that is part of it -- it is the sheer volume. Martin was a go-to-guy in the Yankees clubhouse, which takes a lot of pressure off of other players. It does help that the catcher can act as one of the team's spokesman. This attribute is worth something in terms of clubhouse dynamics over a very long season.